Handmade: Evolution of a personal style

Jocelynn Brown
The Detroit News

Not so long ago, before gravity consumed my body, and when I still had a metabolism, I, like so many women, wore somewhat fitted clothes – little knit dresses, ribbed-knit sweaters, pencil skirts, etc. Then with age, came the need for comfort and covering “excess baggage,” so I started buying my clothes a size or two larger, but they never looked quite right because they weren’t designed as over-sized garments. It always looked as though I’d gotten dressed in the dark and in someone else’s closet!

I went back to wearing structured garments in my fluctuating sizes, but, this time around, elastic waistbands would be a must-have. And, as an older woman venturing, once again, into a world of fashion that caters to the shapely body-type I could only dream of, I told myself – “OK – if it’s not too tight, too short or too bare, then I can wear it.”

In the meantime, I went on a mission, searching racks everywhere for a style that would suit my growing needs and waist. I began noticing women who wore oversized garments, made with fluid fabrics that skimmed their body and flowed with their every move. “That’s it,” I thought. “That’s the look I want!” But it would be years before I’d find retailers who shared my sense of style.

Then, one summer, I stopped at a popular boutique, once on East Jefferson in Detroit. It was there I found the look that had been calling out to me. One boutique led to another, then another, and before long, I was hooked!

I began building a wardrobe I could work and play in comfortably. It took a little getting used to because fuller-cut garments can make you look larger, depending on the silhouette and drape of the fabric – but, hey, that’s OK. I even, sometimes, pair big on top with big on bottom – a look that can get you arrested by “fashion police” in a New York minute.

And, although I’ve been wearing over-sized garments for nearly 10 years, it was just last month, while searching online for wardrobe additions, that I learned the style actually has a name in the fashion industry – “Lagenlook” (also known as Lagenwear) a German term for “layered look.”

What exactly is Lagenwear? Popular in Europe, it’s over-sized garments made mostly with natural fabrics (cotton, gauze, linen, silk, wool and voile). It’s casual chic fashioned with big tunic tops, baggie pants, pockets in unexpected places, balloon skirts and dresses, gathers and ruffles, funnel necklines, dips and tucks, drop-seat pants, assymetrical hems, a little Boho, a lot of rouching, unfinished hems, drop-shoulders, wrinkles, drawstrings, and more. (Whew!)

Lagenwear is also not conforming to structured styles, fun to wear, forgiving, unique silhouettes, always in fashion, and, best of all – for women of all ages, shapes and sizes who want the look and feel of comfort with distinct styling!

And, finally – Lagenwear is likely more affordable if you make it yourself. I just finished sewing my first piece – a poofy skirt using Simplicity pattern #2449. It cost $37.91 for supplies, including the pattern, elastic, thread, ribbon and lightweight crinkled cotton fabric, which I found on clearance. Timewise, I spent about eight hours cutting and sewing. I lengthened the waistband to make the skirt longer. I also made it larger than necessary for more flare, and I only did poofs (five) across the front.

So, if you sew, and the layered look fits your style, please see my list of suggestions. Or, if you prefer to buy off the rack, see “Places to Shop.”

(Next week: Meet a local Lagenwear pattern designer with her own label.)

Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, or


■Pattern Companies: Sew Tina Givens (; Simplicity (some designs),; Vogue (some designs),

■Book: “Bold & Beautiful, Easy Sew Clothes” by Habibe Acikgoz

■Youtube Video: “Streetwalk 2015 YouTube Version” (A Lagenwear fashion show.)

Places to Shop:

■Flo Boutique, 404 W. Willis at Cass, Midtown Detroit. (313) 831-4901

■Milieu, 2163 Cole, Birmingham. (248) 542-9119

■Djenne Beads & Art, 1045 Beaubien, #153, Detroit (Greektown). (313) 965-6620

■Savvy Chic, 2712 Riopelle (Eastern Market), Detroit. (313) 833-8769